« The Davos non-paradox | Main | Why economists should look at horses »

January 24, 2018



My son's history lecturer at sixth form college used to continually tell the class how stupid George W Bush was.

"that mechanisms in the economy and in politics that should select for at least adequacy now often select for the worst"

Trash a culture then feign shock at what results.

(Not that I'm sure many past leaders would have survived under today's microscopes. Lloyd George wouldn't, nor Churchill.)

David Friedman

I doubt either Trump or Bush is stupid. There is a lot of competition for the job, and unprincipled plus smart beats unprincipled plus stupid.

The only situation in which I would expect someone stupid to end up with high political office is if he, in effect, inherits it--son, brother, wife of a past very successful politician. Bush could be that, although, given the competition for president, I think he also had to be reasonably smart. Teddy Kennedy is a clearer case.

Steve M

The claim that sharks and tapeworms are not adapted to their environments through skill but because of natural selection seems a bit odd - all skill comes from natural selection, and there is nothing fundamentally different between a sharks natural talents, and a humans capacity for learning and technology


Is it a problem for Capitalism? Capitalism has always had large elements left over from feudalism. The role of evil billionaires as boss in both business and politics is not new.The gilded age USA was like this, huge inequality and political corruption; but the us economy boomed due to its geographical, population and political advantages compared to the rest of the world. Capitalist development elsewhere was similar, with for example Karl wittgenstein exploiting the methods of carnegie in the austrian empire helped by protectionism. May be the rise of trump and berlusconi is a problem for the mythical capitalism of liberal theory but real capitalism is just showing it is an immoral system of power relations once stripped of the civilising role of social democracy. It will be socialism or barbarism; and the later looks far more healthy than the former at the moment. I doubt the billionaires and their corporations will refuse the massive tax cuts trump has signed into law despite the fact they no doubt are quite aware he is a fucking moron. Capitalism survives partly by creating a class of stupid reactionary people who worship snake oil salesmen. So yes he is stupid, but that is why he is successful, he is the right kind of stupid.


So, is this a classical case of being right for the wrong reasons, or of being wrong for the right reasons ?

Is Trump right or is he wrong ?

But I think you do not take into account the nature of human thinking: we are very good (at least some of us are) at solving the impersonal, rational puzzles involved in mathematics, science, technology and logic.

But we are appallingly bad at the more 'human' questions. Has it never occurred to you to wonder how such a pile of old, superstitious group archoses as 'religion' is still a massive factor in our world ?

If we can't see through that pile of egregious nonsense, we're never going to see through a Donald Trump - as we didn't see through the Bushes, Reagan or Churchill.

Then you may consider the world of artistic endeavour: in what way is the ebb and flow of opinion and belief there in any way significantly different from the ebb and flow of opinion and belief in the socio-political world ?

Is Anna Karenina the greatest novel ever written as many have averred ? Is free-market capitalism the greatest socio-political system ever experienced as many have averred ?

Eminent emigrant

I beg to differ about chimpanzees. From what I understand even the strongest chimp has to exercise power carefully, because he's not stronger than chips 2 & 3.

Dave Timoney

Kevin Williamson blames the dumb electorate (not for the first time), but in so doing he ignores that the political market, like any other, is constructed. The results may be emergent, and thus not always predictable, but they are heavily influenced.

Trump is the culmination of a decades-long strategy by the Republican Party, starting under Nixon, to shift preferences from material interest to group identity (race, religion, culture etc). He may be a Frankenstein monster in many respects, but he is their monster.

As such, we should use the word "genius" in its other sense: Trump is the spirit of modern Republicanism.


I'm confused about on of your statements Chris.

You say "Jonathan Haskel and colleagues show that a lot of productivity growth comes (pdf) from entry and exit rather than incumbents upping their game"

I don't understand the logic. Incumbents upping their game drives exit and makes entry only viable for firms at least as (or marginally less) productive than the incumbents. You've made a false dichotomy between entry and exit on the one hand, and capital investment on the other, which are two sides of the same process of creative destruction.


«Incumbents upping their game drives exit»

What the paper says is that does not happen that much in practice, and what happens more often is new entrants drive incumbents to exit, or incumbents drive themselves to exit, allowing for entry of new businesses.
That seems to imply that capital investment by incumbents either is low or ineffectual or drives expansion of output rather than improvement of efficiency.


The GOP's well honed selection mechanism worked just fine, as F.A.T.E explained above. Among the GOP nomination candidates, Trump best conformed to the mechanism's operating principles.


Cheers Blissex and sorry Chris - lazy scholarship on my part.

The comments to this entry are closed.

blogs I like

Blog powered by Typepad